Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 26 Spring 2010 Contents In terms of approach, Bela has also pushed
the envelope by using musical structures
to formulate his pieces. Because music
is intrinsically abstract, he says, it has
the unique ability of working directly on
the subconscious: “It gets past the initial
cognitive defenses, so the listener is forced
to respond in an emotional way.
“That’s the kind of effect I want my work
to have, which is why I’ve been looking at
musical forms like the fugue and the sonata,
applying their structures to the way I work.”
This is best seen in his piece Stravinsky,
a large, blue ovoid form animated with
ribbons of clay. As arts writer Dorothy
Erickson observes, the knife-edged
protrusions in the work provide sharp
contrasts in light and shade, evoking the
compositions of Stravinsky himself.
Bela says he is hoping to build on these
ideas when he partakes in a 10-week
developmental residency at Colorado’s
Anderson Ranch Arts Centre from February
2011. “I’m thinking about creating these
multi-piece formats, so rather than having
a single structure on its own, there might
be ten grouped together which read like a
composition. The idea is that as you walk
through this installation, it gives you a
transitional experience – just like music.”
Given his passion for the craft and
willingness to manipulate clay in
meaningful ways, it’s no surprise to learn
that Bela – like his father – has also shown a
huge commitment to arts education in WA.
On completing his university studies in
1979, Bela took a job teaching ceramics in
Kalgoorlie and has continued to lecture since
then to fund his artistic pursuits.
“It’s always been the bread and butter for
my art,” he says. “I’ve always exhibited and
I’ve always thought of myself as an artist.
And it’s that attitude that’s enabled me to
stay in the game, rather than saying: ‘I’m a
teacher now, I’m going to put up my feet’.”
Among some of the more successf ul
students he’s sent out into the world are
Helen Foster and Fleur Schell, who have
both shaped their own distinct paths as
promi nent WA cera mici sts.
Bela has also served as chair of the WA
Ministerial Arts Committee and foundation
chair of NETS WA (now Art on the Move),
and sat on the Festival of Perth Board and the
more recent Arts Development Panel.
These days, he spends most of his time at
the Central Institute of Technology, where
he lectures in ceramics and works on his
own sculptural creations. He’s completing a
collection of critter-like forms to exhibit at
his brother’s open ga rden in September, and
in preparation for his Colorado residency,
working on more domestic pieces to sell at
his sister Eveline’s home studio in December.
“There’s still so much scope for
exploration in ceramics,” he says. “And I
think as an art form, we’re at a point now
where it’s starting to claim territory. Because
of its functional origins, ceramics has
generally been seen as a lesser art here, but
We speak to Bela’s sister: renowned painter Eveline Kotai
When did you first notice Bela’s potential as a ceramicist?
I noticed he’d been spending more time in Dad’s studio
when I was in my late teens (Bela is two years older). The
next thing I knew he was throwing pots and making kilns.
How have you seen Bela’s work evolve over the past 30 or
40 years? The progression from practical homewares in the
early 70s to the dramatic forms of the present was gradual.
The earlier work was probably driven by the need to make a
living, but served as a firm grounding for future directions.
Are there a ny simila rities bet ween your work and Bela’s?
The only direct similarity I can think of is that we both seem
to refer to musical equivalents – though approached from
entirely different angles. I ’m firmly fixed in the rhythm
section, while Bela seems to be tackling the entire symphony.
What do you remember about growing up in your
father’s studio? There are strong memories of the smell
of wet clay, the heat from the kilns, watching my father
working and mucking around in the dilapidated buildings of
what is now the Fremantle Arts Centre. But the strongest
memories would be of the arrival home of the fired pots.
They’d be carefully arranged on the dining table, still warm,
and the melodic ‘pinging’ would go on for days.
What did you love about your father’s work? The forms
are very elegant and the glazes are exquisite – the colours
and textures are quite painterly – evocative even. The few
that I own still give me much pleasure.
Did you ever dabble in ceramics yourself? I preferred
using clay as a medium for sculpting rather than on a
wheel. I probably didn’t have the knack, or the discipline.
What made you pursue painting? As a child, I en joyed
drawing imaginary people, but it wasn’t until I went to
high school and was encouraged by my art teacher Mrs
Bruce that I considered taking it further. My parents also
encouraged me – my father sent me to a Hungarian painter
friend, George Laszlo, for drawing lessons, which I loved.
What are you working on at the moment? I’m about to
send off work for a show in Sydney at the Depot Gallery –
2 Da nks Stree t in Wate rloo. The paintings a nd stitch collages
are a continuation of my interest in the unfurling of patterns.
Eveline is represented by Per th Gall eries (08) 9433 4414.
The Dank Street exhibition runs until September 5.
UP CLOSE ceramicist
94 INSITE SPRING 2010
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